Explore the most popular trails near Groveland with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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Hiked in here with a few guys, all in our mid 40s and of various fitness levels. It's a relatively easy hike in but at one spot, the trail was at a bit of a bog and we all got wet. The meadow itself is very nice. There are a few campsites to chose from and easy access to running water. There was a ton of fuel on the ground for a campfire. As this was a 3-day trip for us, on our second day, a few hiked up to the summit of Smith Peak. Wow! What a view! Well worth it.

backpacking
6 days ago

Hiked this as an overnight backpacking trip with my family: two girls, ages 13 and 15, and mid 40s wife. We did so in June and it was exceptionally hot! Once we made it to the falls though we were able to hydrate and cool off in the river. Upside of the temperature may be that we had the place to ourselves. There was plenty of fuel for a campfire at the time and multiple campsites to chose from. Nice trip for beginner backpackers given the distance and elevation change. The trail itself was pretty overgrown in parts and, as others have mentioned, you have to watch out for poison oak.

Start to Tilltill Valley; Via Rancheria (10 Miles flat then uphill)
Tilltill Valley to Lake Vernon (7 Miles uphill)
Lake Vernon to Finish (10 Miles downhill)

I did this loop over Labor Day weekend. There were 4 of us (two guys and two girls, late 20's and various degrees of in-shape) Paces would vary but we all handled the distance and elevation gain well. As has been posted before, this trail is more than 23 miles. We were told by a very confident ranger that the trail is actually 27 miles, and if you include the extra distance of walking around Lake Vernon - or going over to Laurel Lake it can climb to 28-29 miles. We wanted to spend the most time at Lake Vernon so we went the Rancheria Falls route. This time of year Rancheria Falls was pretty much dry, which blew one of our comrade's minds who had seen it in full force a year earlier and who said they needed to cover their bags to keep everything inside from getting drenched from the waterfall.

The hike to Rancheria Falls campsite was pretty easy and flat. We stopped and swam in crystal clear (relatively small) body of water that was there before continuing to Tilltill Valley, which I enjoyed much more as a campsite. At this time of year Rancheria's campsite seemed dry and the trees a little thin, but Tilltill Valley was a nice valley, very green with a great open view while also being encompassed by trees. The trail from Rancheria to Tilltill was much harder as the elevation gains start kicking in.

The next day, we left camp around 11:00 and made it to Lake vernon by 2:30, but went around the lake to find a campsite, and that took another 40 minutes. This was all uphill until the last mile, and bugs at the initial switchbacks were relentless. Regardless, the hike was beautiful, and swimming in and spending the day / night at Lake Vernon was magical.

The last day, there is an initial climb out of Lake Vernon for about 1-2 miles before you finish off the last 8 miles going downhill. About 2 miles into this hike we saw the mama bear with her cub from a distance (which people had seen at Lake Vernon the lake the day before). Bugs weren't nearly as bad on day 3 and finishing up going downhill was very welcome.

My personal tip - I recommend the counterclockwise loop, and I also recommend making it to Tilltill Valley for your first night. Going from Rancheria Falls to Lake Vernon seems like a rough journey, and if you go clockwise making it all the way to Lake Vernon (10 miles) with that elevation gain would be tough. And if you go clockwise and stop by Laurel Lake the first night, you will need to continue past Lake Vernon so you won't be able to spend a night there (Given you're doing a 3 day / 2 night trek).

10/10 would recommend.

hiking
8 days ago

A little fun finding the trailhead but a beautiful day hike. Not too steep but has some up & down to it with twists and such to keep it interesting. Bring you trunks if you want to cool off nice swimming holes and smaller cliffs to jump off if your into that
Enjoy!

Really enjoyed our trip. First, the description here says 23.3 miles, but the flyer at the entrance gate says 29 miles. I added the distance we actually hiked, including the detours around the lakes, and came to ~29 miles too vs. 23.

Completed over Labor Day Weekend. Half day, full day, Half day.
We are two experienced, fast, pretty in-shape hikers in our early 30s. Been in drought, so water was all low. Very good workout with sore legs after!

Day 1 was a late start, as after getting permits and all at Big Oak (weren't sure of our plans), we actually didn't get on the trail until 5:30pm. First stop was the dam itself, which is a site to see. Would have missed this otherwise, and worth the drive to Hetch Hetchy just to see the dam and valley.

Started the ascent towards Laurel Lake, which involves a series grueling-for-me switchbacks. I found this to be the most difficult part of the hike, with the steepest ascent. Cleared the switchback and tried to find water before dark. Frog Creek was dry, so we continued on in pitch blackness (w/ headlamps) to Laurel Lake and arrived ~9:30am. Very nice mountain lake, but not as impressive as some others at Yosemite (now that's a very high bar though).

Day 2, we slept in, lounged around camp, broke camp at 11am. It was warm! Hiked to Lake Vernon, which was beautiful. Surrounded by High Sierra bluffs. One of the prettiest I've seen. Jumped in the lake, ate lunch, really enjoyed the time. Heard there was a Mama bear w/ cub nearby, and later saw a video from another hiker to verify. Thus, if camping here, heed the bear warnings and all.

Ascended from Lake Vernon (another steep climb, saw a group that was stopped and struggling a bit) headed towards Tilltill Valley. Negative was the bugs, as starting ~4pm, these little face flies were everywhere. They didn't bite, but they could be constantly buzzing in your ear and landing on you. Arrived ~6pm keeping a fast pace. Incredibly beautiful spot, overlooking the mountains, with lots of clearly defined campsite too. Take me back! (Bugs died down after dark ~7:30pm)

Day 3 we got a much earlier start, breaking camp at 8:15am. Very few bugs! (Must have been an evening thing). We pushed a really aggressive, power walking pace, nearly jogging at times. The path along the reservoir was more rugged and up-and-down than expected. Even had some switchbacks. Rancheria Falls was basically a trickle, so not much to see there, and the other Falls were all dry. Oh, and it was hot too. Wear sunscreen if sensitive to sun. At this point, the post-backpacking meal was the driving motivation, and we powered through, passing only a hand full of day hikers. Beautiful view of the reservoir. So pretty. We made it back to the Dam at 11:15am, and our legs were definitely wobbly or gassed. Really great workout and exercise.

Cleaned up and had a cheeseburger back in civilization. Awesome, incredible weekend! Recommend this loop for sure. Would be nice to complete with more water earlier in the season just to see the Falls. Love Yosemite!

The trail to Lake Tilden from Racheria Falls was demanding giving the gift of time. Moments were everlasting to make me want more in the future. Best part was view of a canyon at Jack Main trailhead.

hiking
19 days ago

great hike but lots of poison oak. The trail goes right through knee to chest high poison oak especially on the first 1/3 of the trail. But other than that it was an awesome day hike!!!!

Lovely trail with beautiful spots to swim!
Remember to bring lots of water.

hiking
1 month ago

For a novice this was great

California Conservation Corps help rebuild this trail and rock steps !! ⚒

hiking
1 month ago

Would do again. I loved the waterfall at the end. Bring good shoes with traction

hiking
1 month ago

Did this hike last weekend with a few friends. Weather was a bit hazy from smoke but nothing serious. Throughout the day it cleared up. Light traffic.

My 14 year old and 11 year old got there before anyone else. A good hour went before we saw anyone. Then an organized troup of kids walked by on the trail. An 8 year old girl slipped off the trail and over the fifteen foot cliff. I was shocked when I reached her and she was dusting herself off. Awesome place, but be careful with the children.

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike, very shady which helped on a hot day. The incline and rocks were not too bad. One thing I found different was the beach sand the whole way up to the waterfalls. We had a lot on rolling ankles in our group so be careful The water at the end was PERFECT.

This was an awesome hike and the views are indescribable. I had not been backpacking in a few years and most of my trips have been in the Smoky Mountains so I was not completely prepared for this grueling hike in the dry heat. We stopped at Laurel Lake and decided to make this our home as I was too exhausted to go further but it was the perfect site. We stayed on the Southside and had the camp completely to ourselves. We didn’t see any bears but heard about a camper at Vernon Lake who had his backpack raided that previous night. We did have a big buck walk right into our camp only about 15 feet away like he owned the place. I definitely recommend this trip but maybe in a cooler part on the year. We were there the last few days of June.

backpacking
2 months ago

Great section of the park that I've never had a chance to explore before. We just went to Laurel Lake and back since it was so flipping hot. Never hiking in 95+ degree weather again :)

Beautiful shady hike on a hot day. Some rocky steeper spots but overall an easy hike. The cold swimming water at the end felt great on my hot feet!

Nice trail, nice swimming holes and beautiful water falls but please please be very careful if you climb to the top of the falls they are very slippery and you can easily slide down into the fall! Please use caution we had a accident that could have ended in tragedy. Thank you to a very kind and brave stranger who risked his life for my wife! Again!!! Please be safe!

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike! Great views! Great swimming area!

Great area to get away from the crowds. Plenty of areas along the trail to dip in the water. Water is very cold but refreshing after the hike in.

on Carlon Falls Trail

hiking
3 months ago

The trail runs along the river for a good portion of the route, which provides for nice scenery in contrast to the absolute devastation from former burns if you look in the other direction. Ease of navigation leaves something to be desired - there are countless offshoots and no blazes to reaffirm whether you are on the actual trail. The falls at the end of the hike are a worthwhile finale.

backpacking
3 months ago

I did this trail clockwise with a friend over 4 nights, 3 days plus we added our first night at Laurel Lake. Being pretty fit ourselves, we found this to be a challenging trip and very sunny/warm. Sometimes water stops are not frequent so be sure to carry plenty of water! Several boggy spots where you will get quite muddy/dirty: headed into Laurel area, headed up after Vernon Lake, Tiltill area. Heading into Laurel area you will also have to cross a river to about the knees. Bear tracks and sightings, be very careful and aware of your surroundings at all times! Many downed trees and overgrown paths so be sure to have GPS or maps to avoid getting lost. Overall very beautiful and a wide array of scenery as you hike along.

hiking
3 months ago

Great out and back trail. It was pretty warm when my husband and I did this and we definitely should have taken more water. After the first couple miles there’s not much shade! We took a couple dips in the water to cool down and it was amazing. Make sure you have a hat and bring enough water! :)

If I could give zero stars for this hike I would. First of all there is no parking for the trailhead, just about two spots in what looks like a short turnaround across from the trailhead. This is definitely a strenuous and difficult hike which is not rewarded by any beautiful scenery. The trail exposed to sun, it’s hot, dry and extremely dusty with poison oak along trail. Trail is primarily through the burned forest from the Rim fire. When the trail descends into the valley floor the trail becomes lost and there are no trail markers in sign. You’d have to make your own trail to get to the river. Be warned, the way up is rough. Don’t do this hike without tons of water. Wouldn’t recommend this hike unless you hate yourself and want to punish yourself.

hiking
3 months ago

Nice little day hike. Mostly shaded. Nice little falls/cascades at end. When water volume over falls is lower, many swimming opportunities would be available.

We did this trip over Memorial Day weekend so we saw a good deal of people. Overall, this was a nice 2 night, 3 day backpacking trip. You get to see quite a few different landscapes and get a pretty good workout overall. Day 1 and 2 is about 10 miles with day 3 around 6.5. There's some good climbs but overall, not to bad. Be prepared for some bugs in TilTill and possibly flooding in the valley. Be on the look out for bears too in the Beehive area. Both locations have sites with fire rings. I'd recommend this for anyone looking for a fun, moderate 3 day backpacking trip. Remember Leave No Trace!

on Preston Falls Trail

hiking
3 months ago

This is one other amazing trail to hike. You hike along the bank of the vibrant river and its very refreshing.I had been on a mid spring sunny day when the weather was around 70F. I had started to hike by 1030 hrs and found it highly draining and had got dehydrated by the time i got back, may be I am used to hiking a lot during fall and winter and had still not acclimatized to the spring weather. My suggestion is to hike during dusk or dawn so that you will to get enjoy the hike thoroughly. It took 0430 hrs for me to hike this 8.9 mile hike.
Note on the travel direction: after you cross the vehicle bridge in the cherry lake road while driving from Highway 120, please turn to the right towards the cottages. There is no sign board directing to the trail head and mostly you will tend to get lost. from there it is just a 3/4 mile to the trail head and it is called as Stanislaus National Forest Trail Head.

clockwise May 19 2018, 3 days 2 nights. Camped at Vernon lake and Rancheria (considered Tiltill but limited sites and unlimited mosquitoes).

In the early season, this is as good as any Yosemite backcountry hike (lakes, waterfalls, views, variety of ecosystems and vegetation)
+ and
no crowding (walked up for permit, saw fewer than 10 people when away from lower trail along the reservoir).

In later season I can imagine the dust and heat and aridity might change the balance and drop a star.

It may distract from your enjoyment if you think about the history of Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Consider the info from online and national park service as well as from San Francisco department of water that is on the placards.

Prep suggestions:
* we liked clockwise, not only to get elevation out of the way early, but facing into nice view coming back down to Hetch Hetchy :
* be ready for wearying uphill and downhill out of and then back in to Hetch Hetchy Valley
* check if you will need to wade thru Tiltill Valley (water above boot line and no way around, for approx 20 yards each side of the valley). Soft soil and grass meant barefoot was fine for most of our group.
* fair amount of bogs and rock hopping and downed trees changed our time calculus.

Highlights:
* great campsites + no fire restriction
* water at Wapama falls is enough to get wet walking across the bridge but not enough to close the trail
* wildflowers!! (So so many and so many species, especially at lower elevations)
* Tiltill Valley = spectacular in a peaceful way, well worth seeing (think baby Yosemite or tiny pre flood Hetch Hetchy)
* Vernon lake, especially from the ridge above the lake (toward Tiltill/Rancheria)

Note on mileage: Trails illustrated is 25, not counting unavoidable .5 each way from parking to the dam and variable to get from junction to actual camping at Vernon (.3 each way, but could be more). My gps said 27.5. I would use 25+ for planning assumption, not the 23 from AllTrails (sorry guys!)
Final note that the backcountry office says 28 miles, but I believe that is the trails illustrated 25 plus 3 miles optional extra around laurel lake.

nature trips
3 months ago

I would rate this more as a nature hike. The trail is fairly easy until the last 1/4 mile. From there it becomes steep and rocky until you reach the falls. We did it with a 4 year old in tow.
The trail is within the burn area of the 2013 Rim Fire, it provided a great learning opportunity for our 12 year old to see the devastation and regrowth as part of our nature's cycle.
The falls are amazing with pools to dip in if you dare (that water is icy! brrrr!!).

Great place to visit

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